Friday, September 14, 2007

Louisiana Appeals Court Overturns Conviction of Jena 6 Defendant, Mychal Bell

For Immediate Release

Media Advisory

Event: Charges Dropped Against Mychal Bell: Public Meeting on the Jena 6
Date: Wednesday, September 19, 2007, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Speakers: From MECAWI and the Social Justice Community
Film: TV 33 Interview on the Jena 6 and Racism in Wayne Co.

Location: Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI)
5922 Second Avenue
Detroit, MI 48202
(313) 680-5508

Detroit Meeting September 19, 7:00 p.m. in Solidarity With the Jena 6: Charges Dropped by State Appeals Court in Louisiana Against Mychal Bell

Charges have been dropped against Mychal Bell, one of the six defendants in the Jena 6 railroad in Louisiana. MECAWI has planned a public meeting to discuss this case and others which signal a new virulent wave of institutional racism in the United States.

The case of the Jena 6 has gained national attention. Six young African American students (ages 16-18) have been framed up in Jena, Louisiana and are facing years in prison for a schoolyard fight with a white student. Three nooses were then found hanging from the tree. Three white students were expelled by the principal, but the superintendent of schools reduced it to a 3-day suspension, calling it a "prank."

Afterwards, all of the African American students stood under the tree. The District Attorney came to the school and demanded they stop the protests or "I can end your lives with one stroke of my pen."

A schoolyard fight was then used by the DA to arrest and railroad 6 African American students for "attempted murder." The first of the Jena 6 to go to trial, Mychal Bell, 16, was convicted by an all white jury, in front of a white judge, with a court appointed attorney who called no witnesses. Bell was to be sentenced (for up to 22 years in prison) Sept. 20. A national mass march was planned in Jena. His conviction was overturned on Friday, September 14, with the judge stating that the African-American youth should have never been tried as an adult.

Detroiters will be showing their united resistance to this racist injustice at the public meeting on Wednesday, September 19. (all details listed above).

Jena Six Conviction Tossed


A state appeals court on Friday threw out the only remaining conviction against one of the black teenagers accused in the beating of a white schoolmate in the racially tense north Louisiana town of Jena.

Mychal Bell, 17, should not have been tried as an adult, the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal said in tossing his conviction on aggravated battery, for which he was to have been sentenced Thursday. His conspiracy conviction in the December beating of student Justin Barker was already thrown out by another court.

Bell, who was 16 at the time of the beating, and four others were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder. Those charges brought widespread criticism that blacks were being treated more harshly than whites following racial altercations involving Jena High.

Civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, had been planning a rally in support of the teens for the day Bell was to have been sentenced.

Teenagers can be tried as adults in Louisiana for some violent crimes, including attempted murder, but aggravated battery is not one of those crimes, the court said.

Defense lawyers had argued that the aggravated battery case should not have been tried in adult court once the attempted murder charge was reduced.

The case "remains exclusively in juvenile court," the Third Circuit ruled.

Louisiana judge tosses conviction against teen tried as adult

Mychael Bell was 16 at the time of a fight that left another teen hospitalized

District attorney must decide whether to refile the charges in juvenile court

Attack, other violence came after white students hung nooses from campus tree

(CNN) -- A Louisiana appeals court Friday vacated the remaining conviction of a teenager accused in a violent, racially charged incident in Jena, Louisiana, his attorney said.

Justin Barker was knocked unconscious and kicked in a December 4 attack at Jena High School.

Bob Noel said the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Lake Charles threw out the conviction for second degree battery against Mychal Bell, saying the charges should have been brought in juvenile court.

The future of the case against Bell is up to the district attorney, who must decide whether to refile the charges in juvenile court, Noel said.

Bell, who is now 17, was 16 at the time of the fight in December 2006.

Earlier this month, a district court judge vacated a conviction for conspiracy to commit second degree battery, saying that charge should have been brought in juvenile court.

He left standing the second degree battery conviction, however.

Bell's defense team would be filing a motion to get him out of prison, where he has been since his arrest in December, Noel said.

A sentencing hearing that had been scheduled for September 20 is now off, he said.

The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton had been planning to join a rally in support of Bell on that date, The Associated Press reported.

Bell and five other members of what has become known as the "Jena 6" were initially charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit attempted murder in connection with the December 4 beating of a white student.

Charges against Bell were reduced, as were charges against Carwin Jones and Theodore Shaw, who have not yet come to trial.

Robert Bailey, Bryant Purvis and an unidentified juvenile remain charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Racial tensions had simmered at Jena High School and in the small town for the first three months of the 2006 school year after a black student asked the vice principal if he and some friends could sit under an oak tree where white students typically congregated.

Told by the vice principal they could sit wherever they pleased, the student and his pals plopped down under the sprawling branches of the shade tree in the campus courtyard.

The next day, students arrived at school to find three nooses hanging from those branches.

"I seen them hanging. I'm thinking the KKK, you know, were hanging nooses. They want to hang somebody. Real nooses, the ones you see on TV, are the kind of nooses they were," Bailey, 17, one of the Jena 6, told the syndicated radio show "Democracy Now!" in July.

The school's principal recommended expulsion for those behind the nooses, according to The Town Talk newspaper in nearby Alexandria. Instead, a school district committee suspended three white students for three days for hanging the nooses, the newspaper reported, a gesture written off as a "prank."

"Toilet paper, that's a prank, you know what I'm saying?" Bailey told the radio show. "Nooses hanging there -- nooses ain't no prank."

The district attorney was summoned to address the student body. Off-campus fights were reported. On November 30, someone torched the school's main academic building. The arson remains unsolved, but many suspect it was linked to the discord.

Four days after the arson, several students jumped a white classmate, Justin Barker, knocking him unconscious while stomping and kicking him. The charges against the Jena 6 resulted from that incident.

Parents of the Jena 6 said they heard Barker was hurling racial epithets. Barker's parents said he did nothing to provoke the beating.

Barker was taken to a hospital with injuries to both eyes and ears, as well as cuts. His right eye had blood clots, said his mother, Kelli Barker. He was treated and released that day.

Bail for the Jena 6 was set at between $70,000 and $138,000. All but Bell posted bond. The judge had refused to lower his $90,000 bail, citing Bell's criminal record, which includes four juvenile offenses -- two simple battery charges among them.

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